WHEN I bought my car three years ago, I opted for a finance deal and received, via email, page after page of terms and conditions.

It was never-ending. I could have read War and Peace ten times over more quickly.

Of course I didn’t even glance at it. I just signed up and bought the car. For all I know it could have included a clause that gave them my house and life savings. It could have contained a line that pledged loyalty to their firm when I next bought a car. It could have contained the words: ‘I will give up my job and my life and join the French Foreign Legion.’ It could have contained pretty much anything, and I would have agreed to it - because I didn’t read the small print.

Small print is everywhere. It’s there when you buy a car, it’s there when you buy a freezer, it’s there when we take out insurance, book a holiday or rent a flat. But very few people can be bothered to plough through it.

To test this theory, a UK tax policy firm offered a free bottle of 'good wine' within its small print.

London-based Tax Policy Associates included the offer in the middle of the terms and conditions listed on its website, saying that they would 'send a bottle of good wine to the first person to read this'.

They did it as an experiment to test if anyone had read the full policy. Three months passed before someone noticed it. The firm duly despatched the £35 bottle.

It’s by no means the first time this sort of test has been carried out. In 2019 US a high school teacher won a $10,000 reward after she closely read the terms and conditions that came with a travel insurance policy she bought. It offered the money to the first customer to email the firm.

It pays to read the small print. My husband and I once rented a flat in London. A fellow tenant came in one night and exclaimed in horror: “You’ve put pictures up!” It turned out we weren’t allowed to put anything on the walls and risked the wrath of the Rachman-like landlord. We hadn’t read the small print and spent the next day nervously patching up the tiny holes made by the picture hooks.

And we once booked a holiday flat which had more rules and regulations than a North Korean labour camp. They were listed in the booking confirmation’s accompanying small print which, on that occasion, I did at least scan. I was horrified by what I read: had we seen it prior to booking we would never have signed up. We were too nervous even to use the cooker in case something spluttered out of a pan and caused a stain, or sit on the sofa holding any sort of drink.

The trouble with small print is that it’s just that - small. The font size is miniscule. I often wonder whether firms deliberately make it tiny to deter us from reading it. And there’s so much of it, reams and reams. Who can be bothered?

I’ve noticed lately that some companies rattle out terms and conditions in brief, over the phone, before emailing you the whole package. Having no choice, we listen as they spout it out - blah, blah, blah, it’s like white noise. They could be saying ‘We are going to take your payment, but you will not be insured with us at all’ - would most of us pick up on it? Of course not.

We really should take more notice of small print. It maybe dull and time-consuming to read, but you never know what treats lie in store.